Having slogged my way through WWE 2K15 and it’s realistic career mode, I was naturally sceptical about diving in again. I needn’t have been worried, 2K16 puts the series back on track despite a few graphical hiccups.
The main problem with last year’s game was the horrible career mode. Despite the genuine joy to a wrestling fan like myself of creating a superstar and starting off in NXT ,I felt what must be the real feelings of a real life wrestler like Cesaro. I was banging my head against a brick wall, until finally my career got interesting and I was able to move onto the main roster. Unfortunately this was after about a month of playing the game. Realistic? Yes. A good game? No.
In 2K16 the career mode is much more interesting from the start. At time of writing the companion WWE 2K16 app, that allows you to put your face and logos in the game has not been released, so my first create a character is quite bland. Last year ‘The Savage Outlaw’ took quite a while to win matches. This year Immediately you get to do post match interviews and interrupt people on their walk to the ring. This opens up a true face/heel choice and turns the game into the giant action figure playset it should always be. The reason WWE No Mercy on N64 is so findly remembered, is not because of it’s career mode, which included a horrible Royal Rumble. It is because of the open toy box that allowed you to create your own matches. The same feeling of freedom is in 2K16 in spades. Hopefully when the app is out the only limit will be you imagination. Last year the heel/face decision wasn’t even there, this year I am immediately thinking of doing two career runs, on of each.
The major success of 2K15 was the showcase mode. Here you got to sample the career of Shawn Michaels and C.M. Punk. This year Stone Cold Steve Austin gets the treatment with mixed results. The thrill of playing as Austin throughout his career is immediately appealing. Love him or hate him, he was the catalyst and the symbol of the Attitude Era of WWE wrestling. The highpoint for many people. In play the objectives can be tough, an early match against Ricky Steamboat, is an epic, unfortunately a difficulty spike follows with three matches against Bret Hitman Hart. While pivotal in the career of both men, the character of Hart is as overpowered as you would expect. One wrong move while trying to set up the specific criteria to complete the match can result in Hart reversing you into a sharpshooter. On this point the submission system is not the best. While escaping, you control one segment of a wheel and your opponent the other. You have to keep your segment away from theirs. In theory this is a great idea, in practice the wheel is too small and it is too difficult to get a to and fro battle going on. It is better than hammering a button, but against a submission expert like Hart, you have no chance, even early in the match. Three matches in a row against the legend begins to grate. But get over this hump and you will be flying. Unfortunately Austin’s is the only one on this showcase at the minute, the rest is teased as DLC. Hopefully it will be on sale as £20 is a bit steep.
The gameplay is as realistic as last year’s. Strikes are chunky and grapples are like Suplex City. It is close to the old No Mercy Template, but this year there is a welcome change to the random reversal system. At the beginning of the match you get 4 reversals. These regenerate over time, but they allow you to add some element of strategy into the match. Like don’t go for you finisher until the opponent is out of reversals. Such a simple change makes all the difference in the flow of the match. It feels as real as Wrestling is. The graphics are photo realistic at times but at others they are comically off.
This is where the glitches come in. Bear in mind the game is only a week old, so there will be patches to fix this, but look on Youtube and you will see the best collection of glitches available. It must be said that some of these are engineered by people placing a lot of tables and ladders in the ring. Still it is a bit weird to see wrestlers get stuck on the posts, have bits of tables impaled on them and float off into the sky. At this time the PS4 version seems to be more glitchy than the Xbox One version I have, some people have posted videos of match ending glitches, which aren’t fun for anyone. These are good for youtube compilations at the moment but if not patched could become an issue.
In all what you have here is an excellent representation of a predetermined sport. The options available mean you can make the product better than the actual WWE at the moment, as it is mired in a family friendly PG world. You have the chance with full blood effects on to eat someone with a steel chair until your heart is content, put them through the roof of a cell or smash them with any object that can be lifted. It really is the antidote to the current real life programming. Unfortunately another issue is the poor representation of women in the game. The four best women wrestlers are very conspicuous by their absence. Hopefully the creation centre app will allow people to make accurate models of Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Bayley as well as other superstars who appear in NXT between now and WWE 2K17. In comparison to the actual product on TV, the future is bright for 2K games take on the WWE universe.